Northern Ireland news

Drumcree 'helped IRA recruitment' and increased support for Sinn Féin

The annual Drumcree parade sparked widespread violence in 1996. Picture by Colm Lenaghan, Pacemaker

THE 1996 Drumcree march and subsequent violence helped IRA recruitment, increased support for Sinn Féin and left nationalists feeling betrayed by the RUC.

Newly-opened files show violence sparked by the bitter dispute was a "disaster" for community relations - with nationalist confidence in police plummeting to an "all-time low".

A meeting of the Northern Ireland Office's Committee on the Security Forces and the Community heard how one woman in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, was alarmed to see her pharmacist blocking the road as she went to get her insulin supply. She subsequently changed her chemist.

In Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone, 30 people transferred their bank accounts because they had seen their bank manager at Drumcree.

A boycott of Protestant-owned businesses in Tyrone and Fermanagh led to tit-for-tat action on Catholic businesses.

The crisis began on July 7, 1996 when the RUC imposed a ban on an Orange Order march from parading down the predominantly nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown, Co Armagh.

The ban led to violent clashes between 200 RUC officers and thousands of loyalists.

As loyalists rained stones and bottles on police lines, the RUC replied with plastic bullets and CS gas. That night a Catholic taxi driver, Michael McGoldrick, was shot dead by the UVF near Lurgan.

The RUC's decision to allow the main march to proceed to Drumcree on July 11 sparked widespread disturbances in nationalist areas.

The most serious clashes were in the Bogside in Derry where a young Catholic, Dermot McShane, was killed.

According to a memo, Derek Woods, the main civil representative in Co Armagh, said nationalists "felt betrayed by the RUC over their actions at Drumcree".

"Drumcree was, quite simply, a disaster for both communities and their relationship with the police," the memo read.

Among other declassified files released today are:

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